How Much RAM Do You Need For Photoshop

Last updated on August 6th, 2018,

Knowing how much RAM or Memory you need for editing your Photos in Photoshop can be quite tricky at times because there are so many factors to keep in mind.

This is why I have put together this overview guide that will hopefully answer all your questions about RAM/Memory usage when Editing Images.

First of all, the total Memory usage can be split up into 2 main parts:

  1. How much RAM does your Photo Editing Software need?
  2. How much RAM does the rest of your typical System need to run stable.

Lets start with the second one so we have that out of the way.

How much RAM does a typical Computer need to run?

To make this easier, I’ll describe an average Photo Editors Computer. It runs Win 10, usually has a browser such as Chrome open with some tabs, an Email Software and a Windows Photo-Viewer.

RAM Usage Photo Editing

Chrome is using 1.3 GByte, the Foto Viewer about 250 MByte, My Email Software another 125 MByte and so on. Lets take a look what Win 10 uses with only these 3 additional Programs started:

Win10 RAM Usage

6 GByte of RAM is used, just so the System and some Standard programs can run.

Now that we know how much RAM a typical System uses just to run, I’ll show you how much additional RAM you will need for Photo Editing:

How much RAM does Photoshop need?

This is how can you find out how much RAM you are currently using for Photoshop and how much you will probably need depending on your use case.

After a fresh start of Photoshop, without having any Photos open, the Software itself needs 262MByte of RAM. Start your Task Manager and see for yourself:

Photoshop RAM fresh start

 

Now after opening a 5MByte JPG 12MP 8bpc (bits per channel) Image, my RAM usage increases to 369 MByte.

 

Photo Editing Ram needs

Why does it increase over a 100 MByte? My Image File Size is only about 5 MByte?

Image Compression

Well the answer is, your Photo Editing Software decompresses any compressed Image File types to make them editable.

JPG is a compressed Image file type, as are PNG and GIF. By using algorithms, the Software is able to decrease file-size, without loosing noticeable Quality. An Image of course can only be compressed so much until a quality loss is noticeable.

The reason why a Photo Editing Software decompresses an Image while you edit it, is because your photo manipulations are done on a pixel basis, and having to compress the Image after every pixel-change, will make the editing very slow and CPU intensive.

Bit Depth

Another factor for calculating how much RAM you need to edit an uncompressed Image, is Bit Depth.

Typically you edit your Images in RGB mode, meaning you have three channels (R, G and B) and every channel will be able to save 8 bits, or 256 different values. 8 bits per channel, 256 Values per Channel (or Color). All your JPG Images are in 8bpc or 24bpp (bits per pixel).

Resolution

The next important factor of course is the Image Resolution. The Math actually is quite easy:

[Pixel Amount in Width] x [Pixel Amount in Height] x [Bit Depth] x [Number of Channels] divided by 8000000

Why 8 Million? Because 8 Bits are one Byte and a Megabyte are 1000000 Byte.

This will give you the Uncompressed Image Size in MByte that resides in your RAM. If you only have one Layer!

Layers in Photoshop

If you have more than one Layer, you can roughly multiply the amount of RAM usage per Image by the amount of Layers.

Also, in Photoshop you can easly find how much RAM your uncompressed Image is currently using by looking in the bottom left corner. The first number is without Layers, the second with all Layers accounted for.

Photo Editing RAM

 

How much Ram do you need for Photoshop?

Ok this was difficult enough, let’s look at this table, where all Important factors above have already been considered:

Resolution Megapixel8bpc10bpc16bpc32bpc
8MP24 MByte30 MByte48 MByte96 MByte
12MP36 MByte45 MByte72 MByte144 MByte
16MP48 MByte60 MByte96 MByte192 MByte
20MP60 MByte75 MByte120 MByte240 MByte

Great, now you can roughly estimate or calculate how much RAM a single Image will need.

Now, to truly estimate How much RAM you will need for Photo Editing all you have to think about is:

  • What Bit Depth do I edit Photos in (usually 8Bpc for JPGs, 16bpc for RAW Files)
  • How many Photos do I have open at the same time
  • How many Layers do my Photos usually have on average
  • How much RAM does my System need in addition

That said, if you dont want to calculate it yourself but just want some quick recommendation here it is:

On Win 10 and Photoshop, 8 – 16GByte of RAM will be more than enough for most of your tasks when editing JPG Photos in the 10 – 20MP range and the occasional RAW Image.

If you are a power user, that edits mainly in high Bit depths and Resolutions, and might have lots of other RAM intensive Software running in the background, consider 32 GByte.

 

Thats about it, have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.

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Alex from CGDirector - post author

Hi, I am Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist / Motion Designer and Compositor.

I have built a multitude of Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I'll do my best to help out!

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Comments

As far as I know, general photo editor don’t use more than 8GB of RAM if you don’t deal with really complicated and heavy editing. Obviously, software like Photoshop consumes more resources than something less powerful. These figures depend on the tasks to fulfill.